Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half
People have been asking for a “practical” post so here is a topic with instant application–grocery shopping.
You can’t change your mortgage or car payments immediately, but if you don’t already shop at discount stores, you can cut your costs by 40-50% with almost no additional sacrifice. For a family of four these savings can easily equal $100 or more per week. That’s over $5000 a year!
Here are some of the huge advantages of shopping at discount stores:
- Almost everything is cheaper. As long as you are buying the same items you usually would, you will save 40-50% off regular grocery store prices. If you’re awesome at shopping sales & cutting coupons your savings may be somewhat less, but still substantial.
- The store is smaller. Bigger is better if you want 10 choices for everything, but when you have small children or are just short on time, smaller stores make shopping more expedient. Plus, you’re less likely to spend extra when there are fewer items to entice you.
- Shopping is simpler. You don’t need to follow weekly sales or cut coupons. It’s easier and less time-consuming before and during shopping. Also, you don’t have to memorize the prices. Some people have a knack for this and thus can spot deals, but if these details don’t stick with you, discount stores will save you precious memory space.
- Better guarantees. For example, ALDI has a “double money back guarantee” which allows the shopper to return an unwanted item for a refund AND replace it with a new product. Most big chain grocery stores don’t allow returns on perishables, even if you unwittingly bought something moldy, rotten, or expired.
- Increasing options. Some discount stores, including ALDI, now offer organic, all natural, lower calorie, and gluten free options, plus seasonal items. Many also carry inexpensive basic toiletries, paper products, and household items.
And did I mention everything is cheaper?
(I don’t work for ALDI, I just shop there.)
But I know what you’re thinking. So let’s handle some common objections to shopping discount stores:
The food is low quality or unsafe. I’ve been shopping at ALDI, Save-a-lot (less frequently), and a local discount chain for 12 years and never had something seriously wrong with the food, including meat. It’s almost always comparable, and sometimes preferable, to brand name products. In the few instances I tried a product and didn’t like it, or even just bought produce that wasn’t good, I took it back & got a refund AND a replacement (only at ALDI). I’ve found way more expired items at the Big Store—probably because it’s too big.
It doesn’t have everything I need. There are certain brand name items we really prefer or the discount store doesn’t carry. So we stop by the Big Store periodically to stock up (if possible). But is it really worth spending TWICE AS MUCH! just so you can get everything in one stop? I have a baby and a toddler, and some weeks we’ve just bought sale items at the big store because we couldn’t go two places. I get it. That’s fine. But EVERY WEEK for the rest of your life spending TWICE AS MUCH! That’s nuts.
There isn’t one close to me. If there is a discount store within reasonable driving distance, take larger, less frequent trips such as every 2-4 weeks. Stock up on staples, frozen goods, anything that will last 2-4 weeks, and stop for milk and produce at the big expensive store in between.
I’ve heard Costco can be very economical if you do it right. We have great stores much closer so I’m not an expert on this, but look into it if you live near one. Walmart’s price-matching app is another way to get good grocery deals. Unfortunately this requires going to Walmart regularly.
The savings come from exploitation. There’s no way I can speak for every store or employee, but my research has led me to believe that rather than mistreating or underpaying employees, discount stores save money through a more efficient model. For example, ALDI maintains smaller stores, stocks with pallets, hires fewer employees, advertises less, doesn’t bag groceries, and “rents” carts. The Big Store is a big game—changing weekly sales, doubling certain coupons, and offering “free” fuel perks, babysitting, and food samples. There is no such thing as a free lunch and that’s why your lunch costs twice as much there.
For all the Trader Joe’s fans out there: did you know ALDI owns Trader Joe’s? I just wish we had one closer.
My spouse (or kids, or whomever) is skeptical. Just try it for one week! Or even one meal. If everything sucks, return or donate it, and go back to the Big Store. But I doubt you will.
So are you ready to take the discount store challenge? Here’s what you need to shop at ALDI:
- A quarter. Put it in the cart. Go shopping. Get it back out of the cart. See, it’s not so bad.
- Bring some bags. Better for the environment. If you forget, they sell ‘em cheap at the store, or grab some free boxes (leftover from stocking) and consider your daily workout done.
- Shop your usual list. Then compare receipts and start deciding what you’ll do with $5,000 more a year.
If you already shop at discount stores, good for you! I’ll offer more detailed grocery savings tips in the future. Stay tuned for pantry & shopping lists, meal planning ideas, and other principles.
I’d love to hear how the discount store challenge goes for you. Or from previous converts, what convinced you to change grocery stores?